EAST GREENSBORO – Savannah State’s descent from Division I to the Division II ranks meant there was an opening to host the 2019 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Men’s Golf Championships.
N.C. A&T men’s golf coach Richard Watkins quickly pounced on that opportunity. After all, he thought at the earliest, the youngest men’s golf program in the MEAC would not have the possibility of hosting the conference championships until at least year No. 5 of the program. To have the championships in his backyard in year No. 3 of the program was exhilarating. The 2020 MEAC championships will be held at Bryan Park in Greensboro, April 13-15.
Before landing the championships, Watkins signed Xavier Williams and Diego Gonzalez. They led the Aggies on the course last season with Gonzalez even winning the Maryland Eastern Shore Collegiate Challenge by shooting a 6-under 210 to win by four strokes. Williams finished in the top-5 of the SSU Tiger Invitational.
Therefore, with the golf championships in place two years ahead of time and excellent talent being added to the program, Watkins is now focused on a never-ending goal for his three-year program.
“They have to get better,” Watkins said. “Fortunately, they are not allergic to hard work. They are not allergic to getting out there, working on something and putting the work in to make that something better. But I told them last year, ‘there are only two ways to get better. Either the players you have get better or you go out and get some better players.’”
“I will say that some have put in the to get better,” Watkins added.
The evidence thus far that the Aggies are improving is practice. Five golfers are eligible to compete at tournaments. Those five golfers for the Aggies are determined through qualifying at practice. The five lowest scores travel.
Before the Aggies season-opening tournament, the Black College Hall of Fame in Atlanta Sept. 27-28, Williams and Gonzalez had already qualified a week out from the event. That left six golfers competing for only three remaining spots, and the competition was fierce.
“The internal competition is heated,” said Watkins. “By the time they get to the tournament, they’re going to be tested. We’ve never had this number of players that are this consistent. That is going to keep us a consistent team because we are consistently going to be battling for a limited number of spots.”
The Aggies added one newcomer for the 2019-20 season in sophomore Diego Gonzalez Sanchez. Sanchez is out of San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Watkins said with Sanchez you know what you’re going to get.
“You know what is low number is going to be and you know what his high number is going to be,” Watkins said. “He’s not someone who is going to shoot 72 one day and 80 something the next.”
In addition to Williams and Gonzalez, the Aggies return five golfers in Cameron Bryant, Stefan Holczer, Casey Lindo, Cody Lissner and Austin Trent. After the Black College Hall of Fame tournament, the Aggies will compete in the UMES Invitational, Oct. 15-16 in Princess Anne, Md.
They will then travel to Towson, Md., to compete in the Towson Invitational, Oct. 19-20. The Aggies close out the fall semester at the Savannah State Invitational before competing four spring tournaments before the MEAC championships in April.
“I’m very excited,” said Watkins about hosting. “When the MEAC saw Bryan Park and the Championship Course, they were excited too. We’re a little ahead of where I thought we would be in terms of hosting, but it was always a goal of ours. It just came a little quicker than we expected. But we’re not scared of that.”